Getting away from Google: making the move to Office 365
Naturally, as a Microsoft Gold partner, most of our migrations are to Office 365, so it’s certainly not unusual for Content and Code to work on a migration project that involves moving away from legacy email systems.
One trend though that we’ve seen over the last twelve months is an increasing number of larger clients – many who have been on Google Suite for some time – migrating to Office 365.
In this post, we’ll take you through some of our recommendations for making the move away from Google Suite to help ensure success and to take advantage of the available resources and tools to streamline the process.
User adoption matters
Whichever productivity suite an organisation moves to will involve an element of business change that needs to be managed properly. For example, moves to Google Suite have failed because organisations assumed that because they were providing paid-for versions of mostly free tools some people use outside of work, like Google Mail, no user training was necessary.
That resulted in big problems for some organisations, and the same is true for Office 365. Although many users might feel they are coming home to the familiar Office suite, even if they are experienced with the consumer version of Office 365, having the right plan for adoption and support during the transition (and afterward) is critical to success.
FastTrack to adoption success
Resources are available from Microsoft FastTrack to assist with this, including sample scenarios that map to how people should expect to use Office 365, training videos, communication plans and quick start guides.
Often successful Office 365 projects will have one thing in common – a comprehensive plan for adoption that has been executed properly. Typically, at Content and Code, we use Prosci © accredited consultants to work with organisations to understand what people need to be productive and are strong advocates of this tried and tested approach to change management. However, even by following Microsoft’s FastTrack advice alone you will be better placed for a successful adoption rather than doing nothing.
Don’t underestimate the value you’ll gain from investing in this critical step. There’s a reason why we’re mentioning it before the technical stuff!
Make use of Microsoft FastTrack
For the basic services in Google Suite, like Google Mail and Drive, by using Microsoft FastTrack you can take advantage of two very valuable resources.
Firstly, FastTrack provides and manages the tools required to migrate Google Mail and Drive to Office 365. Secondly, not only will Microsoft provide the tools – they will perform the migration of the data as part of the service.
There remains a fair bit of technical work to perform on both the Google Suite and Office 365 side, but the most time consuming and potentially costly part of the migration is covered by Microsoft.
The type of technical tasks you’ll still need to consider for Google Mail and Drive vary slightly from organisation to organisation, but in general involve project management, getting pre-requisites complete, such as;
- Active Directory clean-up
- Implementing services like Azure AD Connect
- Network assessment activities
- Working through both detailed health check actions and FastTrack’s remediation check-lists
- Creating service accounts in the Google Suite environment
- Configuring the Office 365 tenant
- Client side remediation
To ensure success in our Google Suite migration projects, we’ve developed a portfolio of in-house IP to assist with the areas surrounding FastTrack’s scope, such as custom software to perform discovery and assessment.
You can learn more about this in our latest webinar, “Google Suite to Office 365: steps to consider before migrating.”
In the past, without FastTrack providing these core services, many projects would be hamstrung by the cost of performing the migration of data and expensive third-party migration tool costs just for the core data.
Whilst tools will most certainly be required for other workloads, it is often a massive unblocker to have core services covered.
Understand other Google Suite services in use
Whilst the FastTrack benefits cover the core Mail and Drive services, just like with Office 365, Google Suite includes a range of services. Long term Google Suite customers often will use these additional services and will need to replace those services with appropriate ones in Office 365 and / or migrate data across.
And it’s these types of longer-term Google Suite customers that we’re seeing today. Organisations that have been on Google Suite for several years, and over time adopted (successfully or not) a range of services outside of the most common ones, and for a range of reasons decided that a move to Office 365 made sense. Some of the most common additional services to consider are Google Vault, Google Groups, Google Hangouts and Google Sites.
Google Vault is an add-on service to Google Suite used to ensure compliance, and holds data from services including Google Mail and Google Drive. These usually need to be extracted from Google Suite to meet long term compliance requirements.
Exported data from Google Vault includes mail data, in the open standards complaint MBOX format, and drive data, containing Google format files converted to Office and Adobe formats alongside all non-Google format data. Both contain XML manifests and CSV data files to assist with processing.
There are a number of vendors that provide tools to assist with this process, BitTitan and TransVault being an example.
Both tools provide capabilities to import the extracted data into Office 365, with TransVault Migrator being more focused on Enterprise Archive migration and BitTitan MigrationWiz providing some great tools to automate the extraction of data and manage the import process.
Google Groups is an example of a service that suffers from a lack of API (Application Programming Interface) for extract of data. For those unfamiliar with Google Groups, these are effectively mailing lists with archives.
In Office 365, there’s no direct one-size-fits-all equivalent. Office 365 Group conversations is perhaps the most direct mapping; however, Google Groups can often be used as simply distribution groups, or in some cases used like Shared Mailboxes.
Even though there is no API for extraction of data, we’ve established a tried and tested approach to not only discover, map Google Groups to appropriate types of service in Office 365, but also re-populate data into destinations like Shared Mailboxes too.
Google Sites comes in several forms, and the newest types of Sites, introduced late in 2016, unfortunately suffer from the same issue as Groups – lack of an export API. To be more precise – they don’t have an appropriate API at all.
Thankfully, the “Classic” form of sites, which are most common in the wild, do have an API that can be used for not only discovery and assessment, but also with third-party migration tools. There are a number of vendors that provide great tools for Google Sites migration including Metalogix and BitTitan.
Google Hangouts has traditionally been very interesting as it has provided a fairly clean mapping to Skype for Business Online, and the additional benefits provided, like PSTN Calling or the potential to use Cloud PBX, are immediately obvious.
However, as you might expect, Chromebox devices purchased for Hangouts don’t work with Skype for Business. Whilst the devices included with Chromeboxes, like the Logitech conference camera and Jabra speakerphone are compatible with Skype for Business it often is not desirable to simply connect these to a laptop or PC in conference rooms.
The ideal experience after moving to Skype for Business should be that the meeting experience is improved in these rooms and as such, devices like the Polycom RealPresence Trio or for an even better experience, Surface Hub or Skype Room System v2 devices are strongly recommended. Again, as with any Skype for Business implementation having a network assessment and great headset and camera devices make a massive difference.
The list doesn’t end there
Of course, as you can imagine, the list of additional services doesn’t end there. In many cases as well as ensuring all Google Suite in-scope services are assessed for migration, you may find access has been granted to consumer services also, or third party applications – like Slack, for example – are being used with Google credentials.
We’ve seen in some cases this requires additional co-existence configured with Google Suite for identity sign in for a period after core services are migrated. Whilst not ideal, this ensures that users can make use of a single set of credentials whilst custom applications are brought across.
It can be a daunting task, but it’s not all that bad!
A migration away from one cloud service to another can seem daunting, especially if your organisation has been making use of all that the provider has to offer. Thankfully Google Suite can be successfully migrated to Office 365, and by breaking down the details for each individual service and understanding how it is used will make the migration itself not only possible – but it may transpire that it’s easier than it first seemed.
Moving to Office 365 from Google can seem a daunting task, learn how everything you need to know before you migrate with our webinar “Google Suite to Office 365: steps to consider before migrating.”
Considering migrating from Google Suite to Office 365?
Moves to Office 365 from G-Suite are becoming more common, we’ll take you through all the migration steps to ensure the process is as smooth as possible.
About our author
Principle Technology Strategist | MVP - Exchange & Office 365
Steve is a 5 times recipient of the MVP (Microsoft’s Most Valuable Professional) award from Microsoft, is a regular international conference speaker, podcast host, regular blogger, plus he is the author of a number of best-selling Exchange books. Steve has worked on a vast number of Exchange and Office 365 projects across customers large and small, often with complex requirements and would love to help you on too.
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